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Opinion: How Reality TV Saved The R&B Star

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Raise your hand if you knew about K. Michelle back when she was dropping mixtapes with Mary J. Blige-inspired titles and sang about whooping her abusive man’s ass and smacking the shit out of a hater? Now, do me a favor and stop lying. There were only about 12 of us around back then and I remember every single one of their names.

As talented as K. Michelle is, if not for Mona Scott-Young and her most popular Negro telenovela, Love & Hip-Hop Atlanta, K. Michelle’s ascension as the millennial Millie Jackson likely would’ve never happened. Sure, a great voice coupled with pain-centered subject matter often is a golden ticket to success in R&B, but it's by no means a guarantee.

Indeed, K. Michelle had trouble finding an audience and that was only further complicated by the problems she faced with her then record label, Atlantic Records, who didn’t appear to know exactly what to do with her. While K. Michelle may currently be banging on Keyshia Cole’s window with a “Girl, I’m coming for your spot!” without reality television, she may have ended up like Shareefa. (No shade, Shareefa. “I Need A Boss” and “Cry No More” remain staples on my iPod.)

Likewise, the same K. Michelle was aided by reality TV, numerous other R&B singers can currently thank the medium for their newfound relationship with relevance.

Take K. Michelle’s rival, Tamar Braxton, who spent more than a decade chasing her dreams of solo success only to find it after rolling her neck profusely to the amusement of WeTV viewers. For those of us who bought her debut album, Tamar, way back in 2000, we knew what a talent she was. Not many cared, though, and they had no inclination to, until they actually got to know her by way of a weekly television series.

Others, say, KeKe Wyatt, Lil’ Mo, or any other member past and present of TV One’s R&B Divas can say the same. Even when it comes to acts arguably past their prime, a la SWV, reality TV has allowed them to reconnect with their fan bases if not build all new ones.

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Interestingly enough, Toni Braxton was vocal about her hesitance to do reality television – worrying that it might’ve further devalued her star, particularly after filing for bankruptcy a second time. Those fears are understandable, but in hindsight, Toni Braxton can now boast of being on a hit television show for a fledgling cable network. That has afforded her the chance to routinely promote herself and her projects – including new music – on various major media outlets.

More often than not, once an artist gets their chance, they secure whatever bit of success they can muster and then ride off into the sunset or whatever Tom Joyner cruise booking they can get. Some aren’t even that lucky. Word to R&B Divas, Atlanta or Los Angeles.

While I understand reality TV – particularly with respect to representation of Black women – is a touchy subject, I’ve long wondered why very few note that it’s been damn good overall to R&B singers for several years now. So much of the conversation (to my annoyance) is told through the context of “You're ruining the race, you're embarrassing Barack, Michelle, Claire & Heathcliff," "Stop fighting!" and "Sophia didn't die so Oprah could live in a world with Joseline Hernandez."

Yes, it can be problematic, but it hasn’t been all bad – especially in this instance.

As someone who loves R&B and has loathed how recent industry trends – label consolidation, the decimation of Black radio, the overall lack of artist development and seeming patience for Black acts to build an audience – I’ve appreciated how much reality TV has benefitted artists in a genre with so many disadvantages leveled against them.

Granted, it hasn’t been perfect for every artist. In some cases, you can see exactly why a particular artist hasn’t enjoyed as much success as they have in year’s past. Or in Kelly Price’s case, behave in a way that makes you question whether or not you want to support her monetarily again. Still, it’s given them all a national platform that was otherwise not available to them.

More importantly, it’s allowed Black female singers in particular to have the sort of three-dimensional representation their labels could never provide for them. This happened because they literally get to be themselves on camera. Their talent will speak for itself, but whether or not we feel any connection to them is based on their own personalities. To that end, though I understand the debate about reality TV and representation will continue (for the most part, argue amongst yourself, kids), I think there’s room for a bit of nuance.

Michael Arceneaux is from the land of Beyoncé, but now lives in the city of Master Splinters. Follow him at @youngsinick.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

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Kush & Splendor: 5 CBD Beauty Products That’ll Take Your Self-Care Routine From 0 To 100

Lotions, creams, and salves—oh my! With cannabidiol (CBD) popping up in just about every product you can imagine, the cannabis-infused beauty industry is clearly on the come-up. In fact, analysts predict that the “wellness” movement—as well as the legalization of Mary Jane across the world—will help rake in $25 billion globally in the next 10 years, according to Business Insider. That’s 15 percent of the $167 billion skincare market.

And what better way to up the ante on one’s wellness routine than with all-natural CBD? Just ask Dr. Lana Butner, naturopathic doctor and acupuncturist at NYC’s Modrn Sanctuary, who incorporates CBD in her treatments.

“CBD is a fantastic addition to acupuncture sessions for both its relaxation and anti-inflammatory, pain-relieving effects,” Butner shares with Vixen. “The calming effects of CBD allows for patients to deeply relax into the treatment and really tap into the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for rest, digestion and muscle repair/regeneration.”

She adds that CBD’s pain-relieving effects are “far-reaching,” from muscular and joint pains to migraines and arthritis—and even IBS and indigestion.

The magic lies in CBD’s ability to impact endocannabinoid receptor activity in our bodies. Without getting too wordy, our bodies come equipped with a system called the endocannabinoid system (ECS), which is the HBIC over our sleep, appetite, pain and immune system response. Also known as cannabidiol, CBD teams up with this system to help reduce inflammation and interact with neurotransmitters. According to Healthline, CBD has also been scientifically shown to impact the brain’s receptors for serotonin, the neurotransmitter responsible for regulating our mood and social behavior.

All that said, it’s important to note that not all CBD products are created equal. Many brands cashing in on the green beauty wave use hemp seed oil, sometimes referred to as cannabis sativa seed oil, in place of CBD... which doesn’t make them any less great! Hemp seed oil is actually high in antioxidants, amino acids, and omega-3 and -6 fatty acids—all of which are thebomb.com for your skin.

“It’s generally viewed as a superfood and is great for adding nutritional value to your diet,” Ashley Lewis, co-founder of Fleur Marché, told Well and Good last month. “In terms of skin care, it’s known as a powerful moisturizer and skin softener that doesn’t clog pores or contribute to oily skin.”

However, when companies start marketing CBD and hemp oil as one-in-the-same, that’s when things get a bit tricky.

“The biggest issue is that hemp seed oil and CBD are two totally different compounds that come from different parts of the hemp plant, have different makeups, and different benefits,” Lewis added. “Marketing them as the same thing just isn’t accurate and does a disservice to consumers who are expecting certain benefits that they won’t get from hemp seed oil and who are often paying more for what they think is CBD.”

So if you’re looking to benefit from the perks specifically attributed to CBD, make sure you’re reading labels before buying, and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Hell, ask for a product’s test results, while you’re at it. It never hurts to be sure.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, are you ready to see what all the hype is about? For this 4/20, we rounded up a few CBD (and hemp!)-infused products to help give your self-care routine a bit of a boost. Looks like your holiday just got that much kushier. You’re welcome!

Note: Data and regulations surrounding CBD and its use are still in development. That said, please don’t take anything written in this post as medical or legal advice, and definitely double check the laws in your state. Also, please do your body a favor and hit up your doctor before trying any new supplements. We’re just tryna look out for you. Okay? Okay. Read on.

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Vivica A. Fox Explains Past Hesitance Behind 'Two Can Play That Game' Script

In a new interview with Essence, actress Vivica A. Fox discussed how she initially turned down her role in Two Can Play That Game based on the script. The established entertainer said it's her mission to ensure that black people are positively portrayed onscreen, and noticed the aforementioned film's prose didn't live up to those standards.

"I think the reason why—no I know the reason why—I've been doing this for such a long time is that I fight," Fox said. "When we did Two Can Play That Game, I fought for the way we talked, walked, the way we loved each other." The Set It Off actress continued to state that she consistently declined Two Can Play That Game before signing on to play the lead role. "Because the script, when I first got it, I turned it down three times because it just wasn't a good representation of African-Americans, so I fought them on everything," she noted. "I want to make sure that the images of African-Americans are as positive and as true as they can possibly be."

In 2001, the romantic comedy debuted to fanfare, boasting an all-star cast of Morris Chestnut, Mo'Nique, Anthony Anderson, Bobby Brown, Gabrielle Union, Wendy Raquel Robinson, and more. Directed by Mark Brown (Barbershop, Iverson, How To Be A Player), Fox plays a career driven person named Shante Smith who navigates a curveball when her boyfriend Keith Fenton (Chestnut) cheats on her with a co-worker.

After its release, Two Can Play That Game raked in over $22 million at the box office.

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Actress Gabrielle Union attends the Being Mary Jane premiere, screening, and party on January 9, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Bennett Raglin/Getty Images for BET)
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BET To Unveil Edible Billboard For 'Being Mary Jane' Wedding Finale

As Being Mary Jane comes to an end, BET is willing to offer fans a taste of what's to come in the series finale.

The network has enlisted the help of Ayesha Curry, celebrity cook and cookbook author, to create an edible billboard that also doubles as a wedding cake. The sweet treat will commemorate Mary Jane's (played by Gabrielle Union) nuptials in the two-hour series finale.

On April 20 from 1:00 P.M. to 7:00 P.M. at Brooklyn's Atlantic Terminal in New York, fans will be presented with the edible billboard. At the intersection of Ashland Place and Hanson Place, the closer Being Mary Jane enthusiasts get to the billboard the quicker they'll notice that the four-tiered wedding cake is created from individual boxes, each containing a slice of Curry's prized wedding cake.

All fans have to do is pull a box from the billboard, snap a picture for the 'Gram, take a bite and enjoy. Although lovers of the show won't be able to celebrate with Mary Jane herself, biting into a slice of her wedding cake, for free, is the next best thing.

Don't forget to tune into the series finale of Being Mary Jane on Tues. (April 23) at 8/7 c.

Also, check out what's to come on the series of Being Mary Jane below.

Save the date! 👰🏾It'll be worth the wait. Join us for the series finale of #BeingMaryJane TUES APR 23 8/7c only on @BET! pic.twitter.com/jEwkbC71OW

— #BeingMaryJane (@beingmaryjane) March 29, 2019

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